Some days it is really hard not to measure my commitment to making conscious choices simply by the outcomes that result. But the process of “making choices”, of doing so consciously, of recognizing what choices I am making rather than drifting, is the intent. It doesn’t mean I’ll end up with a perfect outcome or even a better outcome.
It is about being aware of my life and the choices I make throughout the day.
As a small sideways digression, people are sharing a popular twitter feed this week about advice from Nora Roberts about balancing work and life, with the idea that instead of saying you’ll keep all the “life balls” in the air and prioritize those over work ones, her advice was that there are glass balls that are fragile and plastic ones that aren’t as important. So you prioritize glass ones over plastic ones. Some days that means you might prioritize a big work project over a walk with your kid. Not that you prioritize all work over your kid, but that big work things are important too and sometimes small life things are in the plastic category. It’s a popular meme / series that gets shared, along with Don’t Sweat the Small Stuff / Know Your Priorities, blah blah blah, but honestly it is mostly worthless since the real challenge is when you have two glass balls in the air and you can only reach one. THAT’s the challenge, not plastic vs. glass, those are easy.
Anyway, the digression is that while the metaphor and methodology breaks down, the real value to me is that it reinforces the recognition that you are indeed making choices. And sometimes those choices are made with the best information you have available and it just doesn’t work out.
This morning, Andrea had a big dental surgery appointment. It wasn’t in our shared calendar last week when I booked a weekly chiro appointment, so I booked it for 8:30. It gives me enough time to get back home to start work. Then Andrea’s appointment overlapped, but we discussed it and decided that I could fit both in — take her to the dentist, rush back across town to the chiro, rush back down to the dentist. It was a good decision to allow me to keep the appointment, which my back needed, albeit rushed. So we did.
Except getting back to the chiro was more hectic than I initially expected. The highway was clogged so I rerouted, and some annoying traffic, but made it, and I thought I was late as I normally go for 8:15. I forgot I had bumped it to 8:30 this week, so I actually hurried only to sit and wait. No biggie. And my back decided not to cooperate. Whereas normally I can get three good adjustments down my back, we tried 7 adjustments and only 2 went a little. For my neck, normally I get good releases on both sides, and this time my left side refused to release at all. Whine. We do a bit of electro-stimulation, which I normally do on my back, but since my back didn’t release, I had to do it sitting up. I don’t know if I slept wrong or was just tense from rushing, but again, I made the right decision, just didn’t lead to a great outcome.
Back downtown to get Andrea, didn’t want her waiting too long, made it in time for the end of her appointment. But no Andrea. Sent her text, no response. Which meant she was still with the dentist. Wait a bit. Wait a bit more. Move the car to an open parking spot. Wait some more. About 25 minutes past when she was supposed to be done. Hmmm. I phone the clinic who informs me that the appointment was not 1 hour, as Andrea had thought, but THREE hours. Wait, that’s not what we were supposed to do. They changed the approach to the appointment from what they’d originally discussed, she didn’t even know. Again, right decision, but now I’m looking down another 90 minutes. The nurse checked, actually they’ll be done in 30 minutes. Do I want to park in the free underground parking (normally cramped lot) and wait in the waiting room? Umm, during COVID? How about never?
So I drive over to a Tim Horton’s. Again, perfectly reasonable decision based on what I knew. Except I didn’t know half the roads were ripped up nearby nor that the Timmy’s I was going to actually doesn’t have a drive-through. And considering the sketchy location, not the best place for health protocols either. Okay, I’ll drive a bit farther. Again, construction was TERRIBLE. Slow going, finally get to where I want to be and huge lineups. Much longer than I have time for. So again, I make the right decision and head back. About half-way back, Andrea phones to say she is done, and while I would be about 5 minutes away normally, it was almost 10-15 by the time I made it.
Okay, let’s go home. No, wait, we have to stop for prescriptions. We have a good pharmacy we use, normally it is super-reliable. Today the woman wants to push me to pick up the pain meds tomorrow. Yeah, no. I need them now. She’s in the car waiting. Oh, okay, how about after 12:00. It was only 10:30…I negotiate 11:30 and head out to take Andrea home. She’ll have to settle for Tylenol in the meantime.
All right decisions, just not breaking my way.
I do a dance at catching up on work for an hour, but I’m really just shuffling meetings and poking people for info. Nothing really productive. I have to miss my weekly divisional meeting because that’s when the pain prescriptions will be ready, and so I decide to just take half the day as leave. I could have taken the whole day, and I don’t know if either of them is the “right” answer, but it’s functional anyway. I go back to the pharmacy, hoping to be quickly in and out, but no, they have to talk to me about the new prescriptions.
Meanwhile, while I’m standing there waiting to talk to the pharmacist, I realize I’m standing about 10 feet or so from someone in a mask who is actually there for a COVID test. I don’t need to be anywhere near them, so I kind of wander into some other aisles to wait to be called. Did she have COVID cooties that I needed to run away from? Probably not, but I just don’t need to be there. Grab some other items, get the info on the prescriptions, back home, hand everything over and try to work.
I was really struggling to concentrate. So I’m ticking off little items. Nothing important, just small to-do list items. Again, the right decision since I couldn’t focus on big things, but mediocre results for the day.
Lunch with Jacob was McDonald’s for a treat, and Pizza Hut for dinner to celebrate the end of the first week of school. Good decisions, blah for outcomes. Not very healthy.
Then Andrea — yes, ANDREA — suggested we go out for ice cream since it is one of the few things she can eat. Sure, work our way over to DQ to go through a drive-through, and it is in SLOW MOTION delivery. I took the long way to get there which was fine but then we sat in the line for close to 20 minutes before we got a small cone, a small sundae, and two Misty Freezes instead of the two Misty Slushes we ordered (Freezes add ice cream). It was clear the guy was new, was having a bad day, maybe even a bad first day, and I was too tired to ask him to correct the order. I figured we’d make it through, but of course, as it turns out, Jacob doesn’t like Misty Freezes with the ice cream added. Sigh.
I felt like the whole day I was making good decisions, even the “right” decisions, in conscious ways, prioritizing the right glass balls, while plastic balls rained all around us. It felt like a crapfest of a day for outcomes. Each one seemed to go slightly wrong.
But that’s the rub. I can’t control many of those outcomes. I can just control that I’m making conscious choices as I go. I could have cancelled my chiro and had NO adjustment; I could have showed up at 9:00 and just waited across the road for an hour; I could have waited for the prescriptions for an hour; I could have heated up leftovers at home for lunch and dinner; I could have gone to a different place for dessert; I could have taken the whole day off. And the outcomes wouldn’t have looked much different.
The “goal”, if there is one, is to be aware of the choices I’m making as I make them, which I did.
Today I choose choices over outcomes.
What choices are you making today?